2015 will be remembered as the year of the hybrid laptop. With amazing new devices, including the Microsoft Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 and Apple’s iPad Pro, consumers have a plethora of attractive tablets that can be used with a keyboard to function as a capable notebook.
The hybrid laptop category isn’t new. But 2015 will be remembered as the first year on record during which nearly every manufacturer produced at least one solid hybrid. If you got rid of the aforementioned industry-leading devices, you’d still have the Google Pixel C, the Dell XPS 12, the HP Spectre x2 and the Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700 over which to salivate.
Not to be outdone, HP has upgraded last year’s Elite x2 1011, a business-class hybrid with a sturdy build, a stellar battery, but much too heavy and mediocre to compete with the big dogs in the consumer class.
With the introduction of the HP Elite x2 1012 (starting at $899, £749 [without keyboard], AU$1,250) HP has propelled itself to the top of the hybrid pack. The word mediocre won’t ever be used to describe the Elite x2 1012. This is a gorgeous device, at an attractive price-point – one that business users and consumers will treasure.
Like last year’s model, the Elite x2 1012 is housed in a sleek, aluminum chassis that is rugged enough to withstand most minor drops, bumps and scrapes. Unlike plastic devices that bend and flex depending on how hard you grip them, the Elite x2 1012 won’t budge a millimeter. It feels like a premium piece of machinery, one you won’t hesitate to bring out into the field or onto a production floor.
Despite its sturdiness, the 1012 measures only 11.2 x 8.4 x 0.5 inches (WxDxH) (30 x 21.4 x 1.3 cm) when attached to its accompanying travel keyboard. This is a mere 0.04 inches thicker than the Surface Pro 4 when attached to its Type Cover, and 0.11 inches thicker than the iPad Pro when attached to its Smart Connector. In fact, the Elite x2 1012 is actually 0.4 inches thinner than the Surface Book.
It’s also in the same class as these featherweights. The Elite x2 1012 weighs only 2.72 pounds (1.23kg) when attached to its travel keyboard. The Surface Pro 4 weighs 2.37 pounds, the iPad Pro weighs 2.07 pounds and the Surface Book weighs 3.34 pounds when attached to their respective keyboards. So, the 1012 sits right in the middle of the top end of the class in terms of portability when used as a notebook. As a standalone tablet, it weighs 1.85 pounds, which is heavier than all three industry-leaders, but only by up to a half a pound.
What separates the Elite x2 1012 from the competition is its magnificent stainless steel kickstand, which is the toughest I’ve ever encountered. The mechanism, which is attached to the travel keyboard, can flex backward and forward to give you access to the device in notebook, display and draw mode. Unlike the Surface Type Cover, which is really only ideal in notebook mode, the Elite’s kickstand gives you optimal usage regardless of the angle to which you set it.
The keyboard itself is phenomenal. It features chiclet-style keys with a textured face that is a delight to touch. The keys provide the perfect amount of give when pressed. Additionally, the clickpad is one of the nicest I’ve ever tested, both on full-on notebooks as well as on a hybrid. It’s covered in a smooth glass that not only feels nice to use, but also provides exact responsiveness.
The one thing I don’t like about the travel keyboard is the felt texture HP used to cover the aluminum keyboard bottom. This looks like the kind of mink coat a heavyweight boxing champ would have worn in the 1970s. I suspect it will gather a ton of dust and gunk, and will look weathered and worn within a few months. Luckily, HP reinforced the bottom of edge of the keyboard with three layers of aluminum, so you won’t have to worry about slamming this bad boy down onto the table when someone (rightly) insults your travel keyboard’s felt texture.
Specs and verdict
Design and video professionals will be disheartened to read that the Elite x2 1012 only comes with a full HD resolution touchscreen, and it maxes out at a Core M7 Skylake processor. Both the screen and the processor are perfectly-suited for anyone who doesn’t do heavy video editing or graphic design work.
Seriously, based on benchmarking and anecdotal discussions among techradar staffers, a Core M7 will give you almost the exact same performance as a Core i5 processor. And you don’t really need a 4K screen on an 12-inch device, unless you’re trying really hard to see each individual spec of color on your images.
However, if you’re desperate for the top-of-the-line Core i7 processor and a higher resolution screen, the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book offer both. As far as the iPad Pro is concerned, there has been a much-heated debate about whether or not Apple’s tablet can function under heavy simultaneous workloads. The jury is still out, so the Microsoft devices are your safest bet today.
The Elite x2 1012 can be configured with a Core M3, M5 or M7 processor, with storage starting at 128GB and maxing out at 512GB. All configurations come with 4 or 8GB of RAM and an Intel HD Graphics 515 card.
You’ll be able to connect this device to most plugs. It features one each of the following: USB 3.0, USB C, Thunderbolt 3, SD card reader and Kensington Lock. You can also add 4G LTE if you plan on working from the road regularly.
The standard model of the 1012 comes with a Wacom Digitizer and the travel keyboard, which is a sweet deal when you consider that the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector is a whopping $169 (£139, AU$269), and the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover is $129 (£85, AU$179). Microsoft and Apple even make you pay for their respective Stylus, ($99 Apple, $59 Microsoft), so if you need the accessories, you should highly consider the Elite x2 1012.
The Elite x2 1012 offers up to 10 hours of battery life, according to HP. This is equivalent to the iPad Pro, but it’s about 3 hours longer than the Surface Pro 4, and 6.5 hours longer than the Surface Book (when used as a tablet). Of course, the Surface Book’s keyboard comes with an internal battery, which will bump its daily lifecycle up to 13.5 hours, so there’s no real competition there in terms of notebook usage.
When fully-specced the Elite x2 1012 will cost $1,799 (about £1,250, AU$2,500). This includes a Core M7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, 4G LTE, and a fingerprint reader. Not bad. Not bad at all.
What about the enterprise?
All Elite x2 1012 units are HP BIOS-capable, so your IT department will be able to remotely access and manage device performance, as well as access to certain ports and settings. Don’t want your employees inserting thumb drives into the 1012? HP BIOS will disable the drive or let you know if information was compromised.
The units are MIL-Spec 810G certified, which means they can withstand extreme heat and cold, altitude and massive shocks and vibrations.
Also, if you require your employees to dock the 1012s, they can be docked via USB 3.0, USB C or Thunderbolt 3 accessories. The USB C and Thunderbolt 3 docks can power two 4K displays at once, should you need to up your visual game.
When you consider that entry-level competitors in this class are dramatically more expensive, the HP Elite x2 1012 is an investment worth making.
The iPad Pro starts at $799 (£679, AU$1,249), but you’re only getting 32GB of storage and you’ll still have to buy the optional keyboard. You’ll find a similar issue with the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.
The entry-level Surface Pro 4 is priced and outfitted almost exactly the same as the x2 1012, but you’re going to wind up spending almost 1/5th the price of the tablet to add the Stylus and keyboard. The Surface Book doesn’t come in a Core M model, so unless you absolutely need a Core i5 processor, a 3K resolution screen and an extra three hours of battery life, you don’t really need to spend the extra $600 (about £400, AU$830) for the entry-level Surface Book.
Obviously, this is just one journalist’s opinion. These devices are all stellar, and I recommend you hold and play with each of them before you make your decision. However, if you’re sure that you just need a solid computing device, the HP Elite x2 1012 is a dynamite machine that can hang toe-to-toe with the best-in-class.